Illustration by team illustrator Sakura Siegel.

There is probably no better time to be a Spider-Man fan than right now. 

From the highly-acclaimed animated films “Into the Spider-Verse” and “Across the Spider-Verse” to the live-action MCU films “Homecoming,” “Far From Home” and “No Way Home” there has been an unprecedented amount of success when it comes to the Spider-Man IP (Intellectual Property). 

Theaters are currently playing the Spider-Man films of Tobey Maguire, Andrew Garfield and Tom Holland for a limited time, with a discounted price of $5. Just last week, Spider-Man 2, which turned 20 years old this year, was the second highest-grossing movie at the North American box office, topping even the newest releases in theaters.

But what is it about Spider-Man that makes him a cultural phenomenon, but also one that is so relatable to everyday people?

“Significantly, everything we ever learn about Spider-Man reinforces this key element about the character: we know that, if we got superpowers, we would probably act like Peter Parker,” Jordan Iacobucci wrote in his research “Spider-Man–Finding Society’s Virtues in Our Popular Culture.” 

“How he feels is how we would feel. Not eternally chipper like Superman, not obsessed to the point of having no enjoyment of life like Batman, but human in the truest sense of the word.”

Spider-Man was introduced in comic book “Amazing Fantasy #15” in August 1962, drawn by artist Steve Ditko. Writer Stan Lee wanted Spider-Man to be different; he wanted Peter Parker to be nerdy, an outcast and drowning in real-life problems. Then, on top of that, he got superpowers and had no idea what to do with it.

“I just wanted to do what I thought would be the first realistic superhero,” Lee once told author Tom DeFalco. “I wanted to write about a character that worried about money – just like I did. I liked the idea of him having a sick aunt. I also thought it would be interesting if he wasn’t popular in school.”

Becoming Your Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man

16 years difference [Spider-Man 1 PS2 / Spider-Man PS4] (Courtesy of Reddit)

Throughout the years there have been a multitude of Spider-Man based games. 

For those lucky enough to own a PlayStation 5, the sequel game “Marvel’s Spider-Man 2” released on Oct. 20, 2023. The game follows the events that transpired previously in  2018’s “Marvel’s Spider-Man” on the PlayStation 4 and 2020’s “Marvel’s Spider-Man: Miles Morales” released both on the last generation PlayStation 4 and next generation PlayStation 5. 

“Marvel’s Spider-Man 2” has sold 10 million units thus far, including a PlayStation 5 record of 5 million copies in its first week. The amount of copies sold is arguably impressive, considering it is a Playstation 5 exclusive, yet it almost became a necessity considering the budget of the game was a reported $315 million. 

While there have been many previous games based on Spider-Man on various consoles and many console generations, 2018 “Marvel’s Spider-Man” some consider to be the best superhero video game of all-time. 

Some games were good, some were bad, there wasn’t consistency with what to expect from a Spider-Man title. 

Some of the better games were “Spider-Man” and “Spider-Man 2” based on the Tobey Maguire films, Maguire also provides voice work for the games. The games were published by Activision and were best played on the PlayStation 2 and Xbox. 

Other well-received Spidey titles include “Spider-Man: Web of Shadows” and “Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions.” Both of these games were published by Activison and best performed on the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3. “Shattered Dimensions” was noteworthy as being able to play as a different Spider-Man, something people more commonly known as the Multiverse in MCU films and shows, as well as “Spider-Verse” when it pertains to Spider-Man or members of the Spider-Society. 

With many beloved or cult classic Spider-Man games, it is 2018’s “Marvel’s Spider-Man” that many seem to love. 

In one part of the 2018 game, one player was able to land just a few feet from the coast of Downtown Jersey City, spending roughly eight minutes exploring it. While Spider-Man solely takes place in New York, that’s been one of their touches to New Jersey; another is Doc Ock’s hideout is located in New Jersey.

“Marvel’s Spider-Man” has an original story that would have no connection with the MCU films or the comics. 

This allowed Insomniac Games to tell the story they wanted to while having classic themes and ideas with a modern twist. Having said this, there was much fan service for this game, including many suits from the comics and the MCU films. There were even free updates that added both the suits Tobey Maguire and Andrew Garfield would wear from their time as the Web-Crawler. 

In addition to all this, the gameplay is amazing, perfectly suited for us trying to be “The Amazing Spider-Man” Web-Swinging in this game is so satisfying, that most people do not even use the fast travel option, as gamers would rather explore and swing through New York City. 

‘Batman Arkham’ Walked So ‘Spider-Man 2’ Could Run

(Courtesy of Game Rant)

The team at Insomniac Games may have gotten inspiration from another superhero years prior, with Rocksteady Studios “Batman Arkham” series.

You can’t help but notice the similarities as the combat has shades of the Batman Arkham games, which is a very fluidic combo heavy system that is iconic.

The main games in the series are “Batman: Arkham Asylum,” “Batman: Arkham City” and “Batman: Arkham Knight.” While Spider-Man had its fair share of renowned games, Batman had less success. 

2009’s “Batman: Arkham Asylum” changed the expectations of both licensed games and superhero games. “Arkham Asylum ” was an original story that had the late Kevin Conroy and Mark Hamill reprise their roles as Batman and The Joker, respectively. Both Conroy and Hamill were the original voice actors in the 1990s hit “Batman: The Animated Series.”  

The gameplay was praised for how accurate it represented Batman. You would rely on his detective, stealth, and combat skills. While combat is usually what people think of most regarding the Arkham games, stealth may be just as fun. During stealth sections of the game, you scope out the ways to take out Joker’s thugs. As you take out each thug, Joker mocks his thugs, and mocks you, as the thugs grow visibly scared with watch one taken out. The free-flow combat became revolutionary as Batman would attack a thug, and seamlessly move on to the next thug, without losing your combo. 

Combining your attacks, with counters, as well as gadgets, gives you the ability to come up with some very unique combos. “Batman: Arkham City” is the game many consider to be the best superhero game of all-time. Fine tuning on the previous iterations, this game was more refined, while also being in the open world Arkham City, rather than the more isolated Arkham Asylum sections. 

“Batman: Arkham Knight” is not as well-received as the previous titles, but it is still an all-around solid game. “Arkham Knight” was released on the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One, and had the Batmobile playable for the first time.

Spider-Man’s Lasting Legacy

A little boy (Jorge Vega) who looks up to Spider-Man (Andrew Garfield) in the 2014 movie The Amazing Spider-Man 2 (Michael Stewart via Getty Images)

Since the 1960s, Spider-Man has been used as a symbol of not only cultural and moral identity–introducing Joe Robertson, an editor at The Daily Bugle, one of the first major African-American supporting characters in a comic book–but he is also a means of escapism

Authors Alex Romagnoli and Gian Pagnucci wrote in their book, “Enter the Superheroes: American Values, Culture, and the Canon of Superhero Literature”:

“While teens could not possibly relate to fighting Doctor Octopus, they could relate to Peter Parker needing to get home in time so he wouldn’t upset his Aunt May. Teenage boys could also relate to Peter Parker struggling with talking to girls on a daily basis at school. 

“More so than superheroes before him, Spider-Man/Peter Parker lived an actual life that reflected a ‘real’ reality.”

As for the video game industry, the success of the “Marvel’s Spider-Man” series has caused both amazing and not-so-friendly things at Insomniac Games. 

Incoming games going forward will be looking to lower their budget, which also resulted in layoffs within the company. There was a leak of Insomniac Games upcoming projects that was previously unannounced. Also shown was very early gameplay footage of “Marvel’s Wolverine.”

Despite the success of “Spider-Man 2,” including the addition of fan favorite anti-hero and villain Venom, the game remains very good and solid, but it didn’t win a single game award. 

But games like “Marvel’s Spider-Man 2” need to be appreciated as it is–a game that is fun, not riddled with microtransactions and is rooted in a culturally impactful, realistic superhero.

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